History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Let's revive memory of "Doc" Ederer, gifted author

A book by Dr. B.F. Ederer
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bernard Ederer in the 1980s. His hair was white but his mind was sharp. I met him at an event at the Morris American Legion. "Doc" was a life member of our Post 29 of the Legion. I became familiar with the dentist/author in my youth. Our family obtained his book "Birch Coulie" from either the public or school library. It is a terrific historical novel. It tells about the Dakota War of 1862.
Ederer's choice of spelling, "Coulie," has not taken over. "Birch Coulee" has become the norm. The spelling issue stands in the way of Ederer's book being discovered by a large number of people today. Ederer could not have foreseen the Internet. Precise spelling is of course helpful when using search engines. "Birch Coulie" isn't likely to get high placement on search pages, when the preferred spelling has become "Coulee."
Ederer argued for his spelling in his book's preface. He quoted "the Honorable Chas. Flandreau," identified as a writer:
 
The French verb couler, to run, indicates a slow, trickling stream in a ravine, and wherever such rivulets were found, the voyageurs called the ravine a "coulie," probably a "coulee" as pronounced by them. There is no authority that I can find that justifies the spelling of the word "coolie." I therefore take the liberty of using what I regard as the true spelling: "coulie." I regard the battle of Birch Coulie to be one of the most desperate Indian encounters that ever occurred on the American continent.
 
Jim McRoberts is a long-time Morris resident who remembers the author well. His references to the man as "Doc Ederer" make me want to call him that too. It makes him sound agreeable which I found he definitely was. He practiced dentistry in Morris at a time when I'm sure I wouldn't have looked forward to seeing the dentist. He provided a valued service to be sure. Oh, and he was a lawmaker. He represented our area in the Minnesota legislature from Jan. 5, 1943, to Jan. 1, 1945. He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve as a Lieutenant in World War II.
This fascinating fellow was born in Morton MN just as the new century dawned, on Jan. 20, 1900. His occupation, as given in his legislative bio, was: "dentist, arctic explorer, lecturer and author." Quite consistent with Ernest Hemingway.
  
Toward lure of the sun belt
We need a little reminder of Dr. B.F. Ederer's significance in Morris history, IMHO. He did leave Morris for warmer climes. Our local media reported in 1957 that he was a "former Morris dentist now living in California." "Birch Coulie" was coming out at that time, published by Exposition Press Inc. of New York.
Ederer had his first book published in 1940: "Hunting the White-Tailed Deer." This book was published by University of Minnesota Press. His second book, "Through Alaska's Back Door," was published in 1954 by Vantage Press of New York. "Birch Coulie" was book No. 3 (1957), and finally his fourth and final offering, "Bingo, Gallant Reindeer Dog," in 1977, published by Exposition Press. How could the "Bingo" book be anything but a total delight?
Ederer wrote his significant historical novel "Birch Coulie" well before the age of political correctness. Today we're in an age where Native American logos/mascots are being eradicated at schools, quite appropriately. "Doc" was an enlightened and compassionate man, sad for the losses on both sides of the conflict, and his first childhood friend was a Native American. Yet he doesn't always use the most delicate language. This may hinder the book in the contemporary environment. But you cannot find a better way to gain insights into the Dakota conflict, than to read "Doc" Ederer's "Birch Coulie."
The author had strong personal interest in his subject. He in fact was born at Birch Coulie, first seat of government in Renville County. His grandfather Francis Ederer homesteaded there. Francis brought his family from Wisconsin to Minnesota in a covered wagon shortly after the conflict. He "settled upon one of the knolls upon which the Sioux chiefs had sat upon their horses while they planned the attack on the Fort Ridgely wagon train," we read in the preface.
Continuing:
 
It was in a log cabin on this hill that my father and his brother and sisters were born. In 1900, upon this old Indian lookout, now called Woodside Farm because of the acres of cottonwood trees planted by my grandfather, I arrived on the scene. When I started school in the little village of Morton, it was fitting that my first acquaintance and friend should be a Sioux Indian, Andy Goodthunder. Through the years I learned much about the Sioux from Andy and his Sioux relatives, especially Charlie Goodthunder, adopted son of Chief Goodthunder.
As a boy I had my opportunities to sit spellbound in our farm kitchen while visitors, many of them survivors of the "Outbreak," related their harrowing experiences. I can well remember helping move the mass of horse bones from the battlefield of Birch Coulie so that corn could be planted on the "hallowed ground." It was my privilege to meet and talk to men like J.J. Egan and Bob Boyd who came to visit the battlefield. From them I added to my store of incidents about the Outbreak. Knowing them inspired me to continue looking for more data. I memorized the legend on every granite marker, placed by the Renville County Historical Society on nearly every important site.
 
A simple glance at random pages of "Birch Coulie" reveals that Dr. B.F. Ederer was a master of words - a gifted writer. I'd love to have such talent with writing fiction style.
(Some of my detractors might say I often write "fiction" (LOL). Del Sarlette once feigned ignorance by saying "go out to de barn and get de tractor?")
 
Mid-19th Century: much bloodshed
The Dakota conflict was massive and tragic. It is upstaged in historical annals by the U.S. Civil War that engulfed the eastern states. How young was our nation? When you're referring to the western theater of the Civil War, you're referring to Tennessee! But here in Minnesota, the advancement of white civilization was quite underway. The schism of civilizations brought bloodshed.
Am I correct in saying the term "Sioux" has been phased out in favor of "Dakota?" Am I correct there is no grounds for ever using the term "squaw" in historical writings? Is it taboo today to refer to efforts to "civilize" the Indians? Should we even say "Indians?" "Redskins" is off the table.
Our language evolves as do all our cultural understandings. Like it or not, history is a messy story of the strong exploiting the weak. We cannot erase certain things because of their unpleasantness. I read this argument once in connection with historical preservation efforts at Fort Snelling. The fort is in fact iconic in Minnesota history regardless of insensitive things that were perpetrated.
I strongly recommend Ederer's "Birch Coulie" even if some cultural rough edges might be evidenced there. You get a taste of the suspense in "Birch Coulie" by reading a sample passage I'll share here. You'll see the word "roan" in the first sentence, a reference to a type of horse. "Doc" was young at a time when horse travel was still common, and the terms for such travel were many and various. Please read:
 
The hoofbeats of Hugh's swift roan had kept cadence with the distant drums all the way from Birch Coulie, but Hugh's heart pounded double time as he hastily dismounted before Wapasha's tepee and lifted the tent flap to enter.
The chief and his squaw were seated before their smoky little fire, puffing on their pipes. Winona and Little Deer sat together in the shadows, their hands clasped tightly in their laps.
Hugh extended his hand, palm outward, in greeting.
"Ho, friend Brandon," Wapasha said, offering him his pipe.
Hugh accepted it and puffed on it once for courtesy. He returned it, and squatted beside the fire on his heels, resting his elbows on his knees. He glanced around at the blank, still faces of the little group and then asked, "What is the meaning of the war drums?"
Wapasha replied stiffly, "You have nothing to fear, my friend. It is good you are here. I have spoken to my village this night, urging them to keep the peace. They see you here, they will be more willing to heed my words."
Hugh understood that shame and foreboding made Wapasha answer his question evasively, but he persisted, "Wapasha's village will keep peace then. But what about the war drums in Little Crow's village?"
Heavily, Wapasha confessed, "I do not know. Many of my braves have gone to the Soldier's Lodge at Little Crow's village. I think maybe Cut Nose has fire-water there. I do not know what the war drums will mean."
 
Here's another gripping sample. Now, wouldn't you want to read the whole book?
 
The charging Sioux presented a formidable spectacle to the few defenders of the corral. Most of the Sioux were on foot, some wearing blankets around them. Those on horseback carried lances topped with many-colored streamers. The horses and riders were bedecked in bright colors. The full war regalia added to the awful pageantry.
"There they come!" Captain Grant said clearly and calmly. "Give it to them when I say 'fire!' "
The air resounded in the bloodcurdling war whoops, the pounding of horses' hoofs on the prairie, the crackle of Indian rifles. The prairie appeared alive with moving Sioux.
Strangely silent, the corral made up of overturned wagons and bloated carcasses of horses seemed pitifully inadequate to stop such a surge of humanity.
Hugh clutched his revolver. Ole's lay beside him. The Indians were closer now. He could see the hideous war paint on their faces.
"Fire!" Captain Grant shouted.
The big rifles belched flame. Pistol fire rattled. Before the smoke had lifted, another volley poured into the charging redskins.
It was more than the Indians could take. They broke and fled.
"By God! That was splendid!" Hugh heard Captain Anderson say.
Hugh agreed. But it had taken most of the ammunition, he knew. The order came around to fire only when sure of a target.
The Indians were apparently having difficulty regrouping their forces. They stayed at a safe distance from the corral.
 
The battle of Birch Coulie (or Coulee) happened on September 2, 1862. It was the most deadly battle for the U.S. in the Dakota War of 1862. The battlefield is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Online searches about Doc Ederer reveal rather spotty and limited information. In addition to the "Coulie" vs. "Coulee" issue, there is the question of how exactly to refer to the author, as he commonly went by "B.F. Ederer." You can also search with "Bernard Ederer" or "Bernard Francis Ederer."
He gained his post-high school education at Creighton University (Omaha NE) and Marquette University. His legislative bio reports Clara (Wendling) as his first wife and Antonette as his second. His obit in 1992 refers to Toni as his spouse. He passed away in January of 1992 at the age of 91 in California. Funeral services were on January 19, 1992, in Bonita CA with interment in San Diego.
I thank Melissa Yauk, Morris Public Library director, for assistance in research for this post. She retrieved the book "Birch Coulie" from the back room. She noted "someone thought enough of this book to have it re-bound." There is a library display where this book would fit right in. Now that she knows of Ederer's importance with Morris, maybe we'll see his books readily available there. I don't know if they have "Bingo, Gallant Reindeer Dog." But what an irresistible book to pick out for your child. Sounds like it'd make a good Walt Disney movie.
I treasure the encounter I had with the fascinating author at our Morris Legion Club. I haven't been able to pin down how many years "Doc" was in Morris. His too-brief obit appeared in the Morris newspaper. It would be great if a comprehensive biography could be posted sometime. I would not have been overjoyed visiting him in his dentist's role, unless maybe taking a swig of alcoholic beverage first. A root canal in the 1930s or '40s would be arduous, I would guess. But I'm sure Ederer's standards were the highest, just like how he crafted his books. I wish he had written more.
I tried posting an online photo of "Doc" with this blog post, but it wouldn't "stick." I felt quite aggravated. I went with the book cover for the "Bingo" book instead. You can find his photo by typing "B.F. Ederer" into search. It's on a Minnesota legislature web page.
Dr. B.F. Ederer, RIP. I hope you're with your childhood Sioux (or Dakota) friend in heaven. We appreciate your life-long support of our Post 29 of the Legion.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

No comments:

Post a Comment